1 MAY 2015


A recent announcement that Angela Kane will be replaced as U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs by Mr. Kim Won-soo, a transient Korean U.N. Secretariat staffer, raised a number of questions by informed observers.

It is not just that a dedicated woman with proven accomplishments had to give way to a man with little visible productive work except his closeness to the current Secretary-General, his compatriot. The question of women representation in senior positions has to be taken within the overall framework of appointments and in that regard, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has shown keen interest in designating women. It is also that a close aide at the Assistant Secretary-General post was not upgraded to Under-Secretary-General following a couple of years' efforts which were turned down by member states through various relevant committees. The Secretary-General is entitled to promote those he feels deserves appropriate reward.

A main concern is that Mr. Kim, as he is generally known, has no competent relevant background. While Ban Ki-moon himself is very familiar with Disarmament issues, having famously chaired the Preparatory Committee (Prep Com) for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, Mr. Kim's interest laid elsewhere. And while Ms. Kane was a genuine U.N. international civil servant who rose through the ranks to earn her way over decades from P-4 to Under-Secretary-General, Mr. Kim is infamous for making disdainful remarks about "U.N. Culture" blatantly acting as a servant for a different venture. Furthermore, while programme leaders like Angela Kane reflect stability in approach and continuity in substance, Kim Won-soo, who has no substance, gives the impression of propped-up interruption in an interim passage to a future appointment in Seoul.

Mr. Kim's anxiety must be understood. For years his quest for a higher level had gone from nowhere to nowhere at all. Unflinching support by our sincere, hard-working Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a confidently modest man of integrity -- had helped to keep him afloat, but, quite bluntly, Mr. Kim is not internationally geared nor professionally impressive. There may be so many issues, some with personal links, on his mind. Perhaps he may be having withdrawal symptoms in the absence of close connections. Whatever the mood, if there was absolute need to promote him to Under-Secretary-General level, a department with close relation to his experience would have worked more operationally. For example, an informed observer wondered why didn't Mr. Kim replace departing Legal Counsel Patricia O'Brien? The post of Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs was vacant as Ms. O'Brien had to return to Ireland. Was Mr. Kim considered for that post with a higher rank? Any specific reason why not?